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Quartet In Autumn Paperback – Unabridged, 20 Aug 2004
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Barbara Pym's unpretentious, subtle, accomplished novels . . . are for me the finest examples of high comedy to have appeared in England during the past 75 years...spectacular (Sunday Times)
Barbara Pym has a sharp eye for the exact nuances of social behaviour (The Times)
The wit and style of a twentieth century Jane Austen (Harpers & Queen)
Very funny and keenly observant of the ridiculous as well as the pathetic in humanity (Financial Times)
A spare masterpiece of loneliness in retirement (Telegraph)
Quartet in Autumn is immeasurably her finest work of fiction (Evening Standard)
An alert miniaturist ... her novels have a distinctive flavour, as instantly recognisable as lapsang tea (Daily Telegraph) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
'No novelist brings more telling observation or more gentle pleasure' Jilly Cooper --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The story deals with issues we must all face at some point in our lives. Loneliness, independence, being used and using. The minor characters are well realised - Mrs Pope - who Letty lodges with; Father G the priest with whom Edwin is friends; Marjorie who would like Letty to live with her if there are no better alternatives; and Janice - the social worker - who visits Marcia with the best of intentions.
Four people growing old and dealing with life's slings and arrows in the only way they know how. Of the four Letty is perhaps the most likeable, striving as she does to keep the peace, realising by the end of the book that Marjorie is not the best friend she could have and finding the courage to make her own choices. All four will stay in your mind long after you have finished reading. I shall definitely be looking for more books by Barbara Pym. If you like Anita Brookner you will enjoy this - Barbara Pym has the same acute eye for all the facets of everyday life.
The winding down of work and life for Letty, Marcia, Norman and Edwin is described with a skill that makes them unforgettable if not wholly likeable. Letty is pleasant but self-effacing and ineffectual, Edwin's involvement with the Church and clergy is tellingly at odds with his attitude to his marriage and family while Norman is an 'angry little man' always happy to point out the fly in anybody's ointment. Marcia is and always has been odd and gets odder still when she is released from the constraints of employment and its forced social contacts until she simply comes to a stop.
I am in my fifties and don't know how this period piece would strike younger readers but it does give a real flavour of the times as well as the personalities. Do these people still exist as types? Undoubtedly, although their context might have changed. (I would like to be a Letty but fear I am a Marcia with dogs replacing milk bottles).
As previous reviewers have stated, there's little plot, no romance and hardly any action - so why read it? Because it's a perfect example of a beautifully-crafted miniature portrait. And you'll love it.
It focuses on the lives of four characters in their sixties who have worked together for years in an office. They have never socialised out side of work hours and there are gaping holes in their knowledge of each other - because they keep things to themselves, and it would not be polite to ask. Marcia has had an operation, but only Lettie knows it was a mastectomy, and only Letty knows that Marcia has a crush on her surgeon.
From the outside it seems that their lives are quite dull and uneventful. They don't really like the company of others, and are not able to communicate their loneliness. Often being around someone is irritating for them and they prefer to be alone.
No-one really knows what their jobs entail, and when Marcia and Letty retire, they are not replaced, in fact the whole department is due to be phased out, leaving them feeling insignificant. They become cut off from one another.
The main theme of the novel is considering whose responsibility it is to care for those who are alone and incapable of caring for themselves. It is also about the awkwardness of inviting colleagues to become friends, the propriety which prevents it, and the realisation that family is who you choose to invite into your life, not just blood relatives.
The main characters share family sized jars of coffee and family sized tins of biscuits in the office. They are the closest acquaintances that they have, yet they don't see themselves as friends. They are alone, together.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you're a Barbara Pym fan, as I am, this book will enchant you. It's her last completed novel, and in many ways one of her very best. Read morePublished 11 months ago by englishrose
I wanted to like the characters more but found I could not!Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
I found this book boring pretentious and condescending . I am not surprised it was not popular in its time. The characters are annoying and unbelievable utter tripe . Read morePublished 14 months ago by Kindle Customer
I just love Barbara Pym. She could have been a psychologist. Her and Anita Brookner capture lonely lives lived on the periphery of things. This is not a comedy but quite haunting.Published 16 months ago by me